A&L links to an article in Scientific American, Michael Shermer’s “Murdercide: Science Unravels the Myth of Suicide Bombers.” Few readers will be surprised by the conclusion; still, restating the obvious is even the dullard’s duty.
One method to attenuate murdercide, then, is to target dangerous groups that influence individuals, such as Al Qaeda. Another method, says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that “countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism.”
Their conclusion: “let freedom ring.” Of course, suggestions may come from George Clooney, but I prefer the analysis & solutions of, say, Condolezza Rice. Just because it is obvious doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult and often impossible.
Later Note: Today (Sunday) A&L links to a quite different argument, taken The National Interest; this clearly emphasizes different petri dishes and applies its eyes to the less successful examples of “forced democratization.” Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder argue in “Prone to Violence” that some problems arise because of what they see as “the Oxymoron of Imposed Democracy.”
IF A COUNTRY lacks the preconditions for democracy, can this infrastructure be forcefully supplied by an external source? Few would argue in favor of conquering countries simply to make them democratic, but democratic great powers–particularly Great Britain and the United States–have sometimes conquered countries for other reasons and then have struggled to remake them as friendly democracies before withdrawing. Those who are nostalgic for empire view this as a policy with a future. They point to the establishment of courts, a free press and rational public administration in British colonies, without which democracy would probably be scarcer in the developing world today, since most of the postcolonial states that have remained almost continuously democratic–such as India and some West Indian island states–are former British possessions. Still, other former British colonies have failed to achieve democratic stability: Pakistan and Nigeria oscillate between chaotic elected regimes and military dictatorships; Sri Lanka has held elections that stoked the fires of ethnic conflict; and Malaysia has averted ethnic conflict only by limiting democracy. The list contains even more parlous cases, from Burma to Zimbabwe.